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These Vitamins Can Help Boost Mood

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Vitamins are essential nutrients needed for just about every biochemical reaction and physiological process in the body. They fulfil different roles and they can serve as natural remedies for some disorders. A number of vitamin deficiencies have been linked to depression. Therefore, taking vitamins can help treat the root cause of depression. This article discusses the most effective vitamins for boosting mood and how they help relieve the symptoms of depression.

Depression is the medical term for a mental state characterized by low mood and despair.

It negatively affects a person’s thoughts, feelings, behavior, physical being, and world view. Some of the presentations of depression include sadness, anxiety, hopelessness, emptiness, helplessness, and restlessness.

There are different ways of treating depression. In conventional medicine, doctors usually recommend antidepressant drugs, electroconvulsive therapy, and psychotherapy. However, certain natural remedies such as St John’s wort, B vitamins, and omega-3 fatty acids have also been demonstrated to be effective in the treatment of depression.

There are different reasons why some people prefer to use natural remedies to treat depression. The main reason given for choosing natural remedies is the number of serious side effects associated with standard antidepressant drugs.

In addition, natural remedies address the root cause of depression. Vitamins are good examples of this fact. A significant number of scientific studies have shown that people who suffer from depression also suffer from various vitamin deficiencies.

Therefore, vitamin supplements can help treat these deficiencies and reduce the symptoms of depression.  

Dietary sources of vitamins can be used in this way but vitamin supplements provide faster results.

1. Vitamin B6

What is Vitamin B6?

Vitamin B6 is essential in the body for a wide variety of metabolic and physiological functions including the production of red blood cells, regulation of the nervous system and protein metabolism.

Its dietary sources include fish, meat, nuts, vegetables, bananas, whole grain products, potatoes, beef liver, spinach and fruits (other than citrus fruits).

As a supplement, it is commonly sold in oral and liquid dosage forms. It can also be found in combination with other vitamins as multivitamin pills.

Vitamin B6 can be found in different but related forms. The different forms of this vitamin are pyridoxal, pyridoxine, pyridoxamine, pyridoxal phosphate, pyridoxamine phosphate, and pyridoxine phosphate. Pyridoxal phosphate is the metabolically active form of vitamin B6. It is normally synthesized from pyridoxine by the enzyme pyridoxal kinase and then metabolized in the liver.

In the body, vitamin B6 is absorbed in the small intestines especially in the jejunum and ileum from where it is passed into the blood by passive diffusion.

Once absorbed, pyridoxal phosphate is transported around the body and evenly distributed into the brain.

Vitamin B6 and Depression

Vitamin B6 can boost mood in depressive patients because it is involved in the syntheses of neurotransmitters.

In the brain, all neuronal communication goes through neurons or nerve cells.  This communication involves neurotransmitters which are endogenous chemicals that are responsible for the transmission of signals between nerve cells.

Neurotransmitters transmit these signals in the form of electrical impulses across synapses, which are gaps between two adjoining nerve cells. The transmission of these signals by neurotransmitters is important for a balanced emotional state in the body.

In the brain, pyridoxal phosphate acts as a coenzyme that in the biosyntheses of important neurotransmitters.


Neurotransmitters requiring Vitamin B6
  • Dopamine
  • Serotonin
  • Epinephrine
  • Norepinephrine 
  • Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA)

Of these neurotransmitters, dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine largely determine mood. Therefore, vitamin B6 can boost mood by increasing the levels of these neurotransmitters in the brain.

Another way by which vitamin B6 can help improve mood involves a compound known as homocysteine. Vitamin B6 deficiency can lead to high homocysteine levels.

Homocysteine is a non-protein amino acid that is biosynthesized from methionine. It is a toxic intermediate in amino acid syntheses. Ideally, vitamin B6 is one of the coenzymes required to utilize homocysteine or recycle it back to methionine.

Therefore, vitamin B6 deficiency can lead to the accumulation of homocysteine. Because homocysteine is a neurotoxic compound, its accumulation can damage the parts of the brain network that regulates mood.

Therefore, vitamin B6 prevents brain damage caused by homocysteine and to increase the production of mood-enhancing neurotransmitters.

2. Vitamin B9

What is Vitamin B9?

Folic acid is also known as vitamin B9 or folate.

It is essential to the normal functioning of the nervous system. This vitamin is also required for the synthesis, utilization, and repair of DNA. It also acts as a cofactor in some biochemical reactions and is useful for promoting rapid cell growth and division.

Its dietary sources include spinach, collard greens, turnip greens, asparagus, broccoli, grapefruit, oranges, strawberries, celery, brussels sprouts, beets, cauliflower, corn, carrots, and okra. It is also commonly added to fortified cereals and bread.

Folate Deficiency and Depression

Folate deficiency is usually caused by low dietary folate intake. Different studies have confirmed the link between this deficiency and depression.

In addition, folate deficiency can reduce the efficacies of antidepressant drugs.

Although folic acid itself is not biologically active, when absorbed in the body it is usually converted to dihydrofolate and then to tetrahydrofolate. The conversion of folic acid to dihydrofolate is usually catalyzed by the enzyme, dihydrofolate reductase.

The tetrahydrofolate acid formed from the reaction is afterward converted to L-methyl folate, by the enzyme methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase. L-methyl folate is the biologically active form of folic acid.

The importance of folate in depression involves its role in transmethylation reactions. A transmethylation reaction is a reaction in which one methyl group is transferred from one compound to another.

These reactions are necessary for the formation of monoamine neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin. These are the neurotransmitters that can help boost mood.

Lastly, vitamin B9 deficiency can cause an accumulation of homocysteine. As explained above, homocysteine is a neurotoxic compound whose long-term effect can lead to depression.

3. Vitamin B12

What is Vitamin B12?

Vitamin B12 is another member of the B vitamins known as cobalamin. It plays a key role in the metabolism of all cells in the body. Vitamin B12 is also involved in the normal functioning of the brain and nervous system and is essential in the production of red blood cells.

The dietary sources of vitamin B12 include meat, cheese, fish and egg. Fortified cereals are also good sources of cobalamin. It is also available as dietary supplements that are sold over the counter.

Like most vitamins, the human body cannot make its own vitamin B12. In fact, the enzyme needed for the synthesis of this vitamin can only be found in bacteria and algae.

Therefore, food sources of vitamin B12 are plants and animals with symbiotic relationships with bacteria species known to synthesize the vitamin. Even the industrial production of vitamin B12 involves these bacteria.

Prolonged low levels of vitamin B12 can cause a deficiency of the vitamin. Due to its importance to the central nervous system, vitamin B12 deficiency can cause psychiatric disorders such as memory loss, cognitive impairment, and depression.

Vitamin B12 and Depression

The link between depression and vitamin B12 involves S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe) and homocysteine.

SAMe is a major donor of the methyl group and it is required for transmethylation reactions. These reactions are involved in the syntheses of neurotransmitters (such as serotonin and dopamine) that affect mood.

Because SAMe can improve mood by enhancing neurotransmitter synthesis, vitamin B12 deficiency can cause depression because it reduces the amount of SAMe produced in the brain.

Vitamin B12 deficiency can also cause depression by increasing the levels of homocysteine.

Like vitamins B6 and B9, vitamin B12 deficiency is common among depressed patients.

The accumulation of this neurotoxic compound can cause brain damage. To prevent the accumulation of homocysteine, a normal level of vitamin B12 is required to utilize or recycle homocysteine.

Lastly, vitamin B12 is essential to the development of nerve cells. Specifically, vitamin B12 is required for the proper formation of a myelin sheath, the membrane that shields neurons from being damaged.

4. Vitamin D

What is Vitamin D?

Vitamin D is a group of 5 fat-soluble secosteroids, and the only vitamin synthesized by humans.

The most important role of vitamin D is in the absorption of calcium and phosphate for maintaining bone density.

It is nicknamed “sunshine vitamin” because the body can synthesize it (from cholesterol) during exposure to ultraviolet light (specifically UVB).

Dietary sources of vitamin D include cholecalciferol (vitamin D3) and ergocalciferol (vitamin D2). These sources of vitamin D include mushroom, fatty fish, fatty liver, cooked beef liver, and whole eggs. It can also be found in fortified food products such as milk as well as supplements.

Vitamin D deficiency can cause rickets and osteomalacia which are due to the demineralization of the bone.

Once absorbed vitamin D is converted to calcidiol, also known as calcifediol. The serum concentration of calcidiol is measured when determining vitamin D levels.

In the kidney, some calcidiol is converted to calcitriol which is the biologically active form of vitamin D. 

Calcitriol circulates in the blood as a hormone and helps in regulating the levels of phosphate and calcium as well as promoting bone health.

Calcidiol is also converted to calcitriol at other sites besides the kidneys. The calcitriol made in this way is involved in the proliferation, differentiation, and apoptosis of cells. It also plays a part in neuromuscular function and inflammation.

Vitamin D Deficiency and Depression

Vitamin D deficiency is common among people suffering from depression. This deficiency is also seen in people suffering from depression and underlying disorders such as hypertension, kidney disease, obesity, and heart disease.

In addition, depressive disorders are most common during the winter months when the amount of sun exposure is low and vitamin D deficiency is most common.

Therefore, treating vitamin D deficiency may help improve the symptoms of depression.

Vitamin D can also provide direct benefits for depressed individuals. For example, vitamin D can inhibit the production of inflammatory cytokines. These cytokines can cause local inflammation and damage to neurons.

When these inflammatory cytokines damage neurons in the parts of the brain involved in the regulation of mood, depression results. Therefore, the anti-inflammatory protection provided by vitamin D can protect brain cells and neurotransmitter pathways regulating mood.





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